Pathways to a Connected Environment
By Lynn Clark
Native American cultures draw us into a relationship with the environment. This is one of the most important lessons we have learned and that we teach at Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum – both in our tours, and illustrated it throughout the museum grounds in Warner, New Hampshire.
That relationship is represented by a circle where all living things are connected: people, plants, animals, the land, air and water. The museum’s founder, Bud Thompson, learned this lesson from Chief Sachem Silverstar of the Pequot nation during a school visit in the 1920s. It is the lesson that inspired Bud to devote his life to caring for the environment. When you visit, we hope you will also see your connection to the circle and be inspired to find your way to care for the environment.
Inspiration comes easily when you walk the two acres of paths in our Medicine Woods. The woods grow where a farm’s dumping ground once stood. Instead of refuse, the landscape is now filled with living, breathing and growing plants and the animals they feed and shelter. The plants along the wood’s trails are examples of those that Native Americans use for food, medicine, dye, shelter and tools. Markers identify the plants and a trail guide explains their usage. The plants change throughout the year so you will want to wander the paths many times.
In our garden we propagate heritage varieties of plants cultivated by Native peoples in the northeast. The main three cultivars are corn, beans and squash. The Abenaki, the indigenous people of New Hampshire, called these crops the Three Sisters. The corn supports the climbing beans and the broad squash leaves help keep moisture in the soil and control weeds. We receive seeds from seed savers and are happy to share them with others.
This year we are excited to grow a type of squash named Gete-okosomin, given to us by the Anishinaabe people of Minnesota. The original seeds were found in an 800-year-old pot on an archaeological site. We are honored to help this pre-contact variety proliferate once again.
We have many more food plants growing on the museum grounds, such as Jerusalem artichokes and ground nuts. We plan to identify them, harvest them, learn to cook them in traditional ways and share them.
Come join our circle. Share your talents. Volunteer in the woods and the garden. We’d love to hear from you. Call 603-456-2600 or stop in for a visit at 18 Highlawn Road in Warner, New Hampshire. Learn more on our website: IndianMuseum.org.
Lynn Clark is the Executive Director of Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum